April 10, 2013 in Nation/World

Cuba will turn over Florida couple, sons

Boys taken from custodial grandparents
Paul Haven Associated Press
 

Joshua Hakken
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

HAVANA – Cuba said Tuesday that it will turn over to the United States a Florida couple who allegedly kidnapped their own children from the mother’s parents and fled by boat to Havana, ending days of drama that evoked memories of the Elian Gonzalez custody battle of more than a decade ago.

Foreign Ministry official Johana Tablada told the Associated Press in a written statement Tuesday that Cuba had informed U.S. authorities of the country’s decision to turn over Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn, and their two young boys.

She did not say when the handover would occur, but reporters saw Sharyn Hakken leaving the dock of Havana’s Hemingway Marina in the back seat of a Cuban government vehicle and workers later said that all four Hakkens had been taken away.

Tablada said the Foreign Ministry had informed U.S. diplomats on the island “of the Cuban government’s willingness to turn over … U.S. citizens Joshua Michael Hakken, his wife Sharyn Patricia and their two minor sons.”

She said Cuba tipped the State Department off to the Hakkens’ presence on Sunday and that from that moment “diplomatic contact has been exchanged and a professional and constant communication has been maintained.”

U.S. authorities say Hakken kidnapped his sons, 4-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Chase, from his mother-in-law’s house north of Tampa. The boys’ maternal grandparents had been granted permanent custody of the boys last week.

The U.S. and Cuba share no extradition agreement and the island nation is also not a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty for governmental cooperation on such cases.

Cuba has harbored U.S. fugitives in the past, though most of those cases date back to the 1960s and ’70s, when the island became a refuge for members of the Black Panthers and other militant groups.

But Cuba has also cooperated with U.S. authorities in returning several criminal fugitives in recent years, including Leonard Auerbach in 2008. Auerbach was wanted in California on federal charges of sexually abusing a Costa Rican girl and possessing child pornography. He was deported.

In 2011, U.S. marshals flew to Cuba and took custody of two American suspects wanted in a New Jersey murder.

Hakken lost custody of his sons last year after a drug possession arrest in Louisiana and later tried to take the children from a foster home at gunpoint, authorities said. A warrant has been issued for his arrest on two counts of kidnapping; interference with child custody; child neglect; false imprisonment and other charges.

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